Praise be to Allaah.
(1) Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“We make no distinction between one another of His Messengers”
Ibn Katheer said in his Tafseer of this aayah:
The believers believe in all the Prophets and Messengers, and the books revealed from heaven to the slaves of Allaah, the Messengers and Prophets; they do not differentiate between any of them, believing in some and rejecting others. Rather they regard all of them as truthful, righteous, rightly-guided and guiding to the path of goodness, even though some of them abrogated the laws of others, until all of them were abrogated by the sharee’ah of Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets and Messengers, upon whose sharee’ah the Hour will cone.(Tafseer Ibn Katheer, 1/736)
With regard to the superiority of some of the Prophets over one another, Allaah has told us of this, when He said (interpretation of the meaning):
“Those Messengers! We preferred some of them to others; to some of them Allaah spoke (directly); others He raised to degrees (of honour)”[al-Baqarah 2:253]
Allaah tells us that some of them are several degrees above others, hence the chosen ones among the Messengers are “those of strong will”. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And (remember) when We took from the Prophets their covenant, and from you (O Muhammad), and from Nooh (Noah), Ibraaheem (Abraham), Moosaa (Moses), and ‘Eesa (Jesus) son of Maryam (Mary). We took from them a strong covenant”[al-Ahzaab 33:7]
And Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) is the best of them. This is indicated by the fact that he was their imaam on the night of the Mi’raaj, because no one but the best is put forward. More evidence that he is the best of them comes from Abu Hurayrah, who said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘I will be the leader of the sons of Adam on the Day of Resurrection, and the first one for whom the grave will be opened, and the first to intercede, and the first whose intercession will be accepted.’”
(Narrated by Muslim, al-Fadaa’il, 4223)
Al-Nawawi said in his commentary on Saheeh Muslim:
The phrase “I will be the leader of the sons of Adam on the Day of Resurrection and the first one for whom the grave will be opened, and the first to intercede, and the first whose intercession will be accepted”: al-Harawi said: the leader (sayyid) is the one who surpasses his people in goodness. Someone else said: He is the one to whom they turn at times of calamity and hardship, so he takes care of them, carries their burdens and protects them.
The phrase “the Day of Resurrection” – even though he is their leader in this world and in the Hereafter. The reason for this specific mention is that on the Day of Resurrection his position of leadership will become apparent to everyone, and there will no longer be anyone who disputes or stubbornly rejects it, unlike the case in this world when the kings of the kuffaar and the leaders of the mushrikeen competed with him. The scholars said, he (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did not say ““I will be the leader of the sons of Adam” out of pride. Indeed, that is clearly stated in the famous hadeeth narrated by compilers other than Muslim: “I will be the leader of the sons of Adam, and I am not boasting.” Rather, he said it for two reasons. The first was in obedience to the command of Allaah (interpretation of the meaning): “And proclaim the Grace of your Lord”, and the second was that it was part of the message that he was commanded to convey in totality to his ummah so that they would acknowledge his status and believe in him, and do as he commanded, and respect him (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) as required by his status and as Allaah commanded them. This hadeeth implies that he is superior to all of creation, because the view of Ahl al-Sunnah is that human beings, i.e., the people of obedience and piety, are superior to the angels, and he (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) is superior to human beings and to others. With regard to the other hadeeth – “Do not differentiate between the Prophets” – it may be responded to in five ways. The first is that he (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said this before he knew that he was the leader of the sons of Adam; then when he came to know he spoke of it. The second is that he said it out of politeness and humility. The third is that the prohibition refers to the kind of differentiation that leads to undermining the position of the one who is less preferred. The fourth is that the prohibition applies to the kind of differentiation that leads to dispute and fitnah (tribulation), as is well known in the reason for the hadeeth. The fifth is that the prohibition applies only in the case of prophethood itself, not to superiority within the ranks of the Prophets; rather, it applies to superiority in characteristics and other virtues, so it is essential to believe in that. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Those Messengers! We preferred some of them to others…”
And Allaah knows best.
The characteristics of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) confirm that he is superior to the rest of the Messengers. We will mention some of them which are narrated in the Qur’aan and Sunnah:
Allaah has singled out the Qur’aan, to the exclusion of other Books, to be preserved. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Verily, We, it is We Who have sent down the Dhikr (i.e. the Qur’aan) and surely, We will guard it (from corruption)”
In the case of the other Books, Allaah entrusted their protection to their people. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning]
“Verily, We did send down the Tawraat (Torah) [to Moosa (Moses)], therein was guidance and light, by which the Prophets, who submitted themselves to Allaah’s Will, judged for the Jews. And the rabbis and the priests [too judged for the Jews by the Tawraat (Torah) after those Prophets], for to them was entrusted the protection of Allaah’s Book, and they were witnesses thereto
He is the Seal of the Prophets and Messengers. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allaah and the last (end) of the Prophets”
He is unique in that he was sent to all of mankind. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Blessed be He Who sent down the criterion (of right and wrong, i.e. this Qur’aan) to His slave (Muhammad) that he may be a warner to the ‘Aalameen (mankind and jinn)”
Among his unique characteristics in the Hereafter:
He will be the owner of the “position of praise and glory (al-maqaam al-mahmood)” on the Day of Resurrection. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And in some parts of the night (also) offer the Salaah (prayer) with it (i.e. recite the Qur’aan in the prayer) as an additional prayer (Tahajjud optional prayer Nawaafil) for you (O Muhammad). It may be that your Lord will raise you to Maqaam Mahmood (a station of praise and glory, i.e., the honour of intercession on the Day of Resurrection)”
Ibn Jareer said: most of the commentators said that is the position which he (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) will occupy in order to intercede for the people on the Day of Resurrection, to ask that their Lord might grant them respite from the great hardship that they are suffering on this Day.” (Tafseer Ibn Katheer, 5/103)
And he will be the leader of all of mankind on the Day of Resurrection, as stated in the hadeeth quoted above.
He will be the first one to cross al-Siraat with his ummah. Al-Bukhaari narrated a lengthy hadeeth concerning that from Abu Hurayrah, in which it says, “… and I will be the first one among the Messengers to lead his ummah across it.” (al-Adhaan, 764).
Another indication that he is the best of the Prophets is the fact that they will not intercede, rather one of them will refer the people to another, until ‘Eesa refers them to Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). He will say, “I (will do it),” then he will step forward to intercede for everyone, and the first and the last will praise him for that, the Prophets and the rest of mankind.
His unique characteristics, as mentioned in the ayaat and saheeh ahaadeeth, are too many to mention in this brief summary; entire books have been written on this topic.
See Kitaab Khasaa’is al-Mustafa (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) bayna al-Ghulw wa’l-Jafaa’ by al-Saadiq ibn Muhammad, 33-79
To sum up, we prefer our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) over all the other Prophets and over all of mankind, because of the evidence that has been narrated concerning that, whilst also respecting the rights of the other Prophets and Messengers and believing in them and respecting them. And Allaah knows best.